Visual Politics, Material Culture, and Public Education

Visual Politics, Material Culture, and Public Education

Prof. Dr. Karin Priem, Université du Luxembourg
Campus Walferdange, Building I, Room Vygotsky
Vom - Bis
20.06.2011 - 21.06.2011
Karin Priem

The conference “Visual Politics, Material Culture, and Public Education” is very much related to a research project on Edward Steichen’s exhibition “The Family of Man”. This exhibition, now established as a permanent exhibition in Luxembourg and listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, was first shown from January 24 to May 8, 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show was composed of 503 photographs grouped thematically around subjects such as love, childhood, old age, family life, human relations, basic human needs, and death. After its initial showing at the Museum of Modern Arts in 1955, the exhibition toured around the world for eight years, making stops in thirty-seven countries on six continents. The photographs included in the exhibition focused on significant aspects that were supposed to be common to all people and cultures around the world. Thus the show was meant to express a universal humanism and general (western) values (like democracy) in the decade of Cold War.

Steichen emphasised the universal approach of his show again and again. He and his team made their choice out of four millions photographs. A lot of them were sent worldwide to the Museum of Modern Art from professionals and non-professionals. Steichen looked at photography as a mirror of universal experiences of mankind and a medium to form the idea of mankind in a general way. One of the critics of the show, Roland Barthes, refers to the solely historical importance of the show, arguing that photography failed to become a means of generalisation and objectivity. He pointed out, that human aspects and political values in particular differ historically and are not as universal as Steichen’s show would suggest. According to this, the show “The Family of Man” will be looked at as a visual policy to construct and establish (western oriented) human values as an act of globalisation and public education.

Thus the purpose of the conference “Visual Politics, Material Culture, and Public Education” is to reflect on visual politics in regards to a (sometimes global) public, which is supposed to react in a certain way: like forming a national identity, picking up ethical and political values, repeating cultural formula, supporting ideological beliefs, and so on. Circulating exhibitions like “The Family of Man” as well as shows in historical or art museum, or, to give another example, series of photographs of 09/11 selected by sorrow, are means of governing the public by imagination and by using seeing as a cultural practice. This visual governance can also be analyzed a didactic strategy by means of “culture”.

The conference “Visual Politics, Material Culture, and Public Education” therefore gathers experts in the field of Art History, Modern History, Material Culture Studies, Ethnography, Communication Studies, Education and also curators to discuss this issue in an interdisciplinary way. The results will refer to the importance of cultural promotion of political values by means of a public outreach of artistic and historical shows on the one hand. On the other hand the conference will contribute to the current research on the political impact of visual media and material culture.


June 20, 2011

2:30-3:00 p.m.

Opening of the conference
Michel Margue, Dean of FLHASE, Université du Luxembourg

Introduction to the conference theme
Karin Priem, Université du Luxembourg

3:00-3:45 p.m.

Konzeptionelle Aspekte zur Gegenwart historischer Ausstellungen: “The Family of Man” und “The Bitter Years”
Jean Back, CNA, Luxembourg

3:45-4:30 p.m.

Schauplätze der Dinge
Gudrun M. König, Technische Universität Dortmund

4:30-5:00 p.m. Coffee break

5:00-5:45 p.m.

“The Family of Man”: Distinctively American or View of the World?
Eric J. Sandeen, University of Wyoming

5:45-6:30 p.m.

Families in the "Family of Man": Visual Representations of Kinship
Kerstin te Heesen, Université du Luxembourg

June 21, 2011

9:30-10:15 a.m.

Icon, Allegory, Catastrophe: Three Modes of Articulation within 21st Century Public Culture
Robert Hariman, Northwestern University

10:15-11:00 a.m.

Πολιτικά. Dinge und Demonstration
Jan Watzlawik, Technische Universität Dortmund

11:00-11.30 a.m. Coffee Break

11.30-12.15 a.m.

Photography as Political History: Hot Spots in Cold War
Æsa Sigurjonsdottir, University of Iceland

12.15-1:00 p.m.

The Politics of Photography in the "The Family of Man”
Kristen Gresh, Ecole du Louvre, Paris

1:00-2:00 Lunch break

2:00-2:45 p.m.

Moral Dimensions of Cultural Heritage and the Shaping of National Culture in the USA
Brian Daniels, University of Pennsylvania

2:45-3:30 p.m.

The Changing Faces of Visual Politics - Moving Images of the Centenary and 150th Anniversary of Luxembourg's Independence (1939 / 1989)
Sonja Kmec, Université du Luxembourg

3:30-4:00 p.m. Coffee break

4:00-4:45 p.m.

In the Name of the People: The People's Two Bodies and its Visual Representation
Martin Doll, Oliver Kohns, Université du Luxembourg

4:45-5:30 p.m.

Work in Progress! Photography, the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel and the Construction of a National (Visual) Identity
Françoise Poos, London College of Communication


Karin Priem

Université du Luxembourg, Campus Walferdange, Route de Diekirch B.P. 2, L-7201 Walferdange

00352 46 66 44 9741

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Englisch, Deutsch
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